11 Ways to Bake Innovation -- Not Disruption -- Into Your Culture
Entrepreneur's New Year’s Guide
Disruption is the sexy word of the day in the business world. In fact, most of the conversations I have with entrepreneurs turn to “disruption." And, why not? Our society rewards companies that rattle the food chain by executing the next brilliant idea.
The only way an organization can truly disrupt, however, is to bake innovation into its culture. Without innovative ideas, your attempts to disrupt will be futile. Innovation should never be a team-building exercise at your annual strategy session. Innovation must be the foundation of everything you do.
Here are 11 ways to bake innovation into your culture.
1. Stay inside the box.
Sounds counter intuitive, but before thinking outside the box, ensure everything is in order inside the box. Don’t neglect your foundation. Who are you and what do you do? The answer drives everything, including branding, marketing and sales. Know who you are and where you’re headed. It’s indigenous to success.
2. Know what you’re thinking.
You become what you think about. What consumes your thoughts all day? What consumes your employees’ thoughts? If you’re focused on keeping the lights on, you do a disservice to your ability to innovate. Think about driving revenue and where your industry is headed.
3. Keep innovating your innovative idea.
Obsess over your great ideas until they morph into something much bigger and much better. Never have a good idea and leave it in its initial state. Sharpen and transform it into something exceptional.
4. Run everything through your background.
As a former National Basketball Association athlete, I run everything through my basketball computer first -- and then translate it into business. I take an idea to a place where I am confident. Whether you’re an engineer, pilot, Girl Scout leader or brick layer, run the idea through your background, and make it make sense to your current situation.
5. Eliminate limiting beliefs.
Ensure everyone knows the goal is disruption and innovation. You are not trying to take a sliver of the industry. You’re going for the top of the food chain -- and everyone needs to be comfortable with that.
6. Have monthly what-if sessions.
Bring everyone together for fun, no-holds-barred mixers. Innovation must be developed, fostered and encouraged. And remember: There are no bad ideas. Even if an idea’s not a good fit, don’t discourage innovation at any level. The employee’s place in the organization should not disqualify him or her from innovating.
7. Don’t meet me there -- beat me there.
Without innovation, you either won’t get off the ground, or your competition will catch you from behind. All great innovators can anticipate where the industry will be in the next five to ten years. Wayne Gretzky said you can’t skate where the puck is -- you must anticipate where the puck is going and be there.
8. Hire instigators.
Instigators look for what is wrong. You probably already have a few on staff, but they don’t know how to use this awesome power. Instigators look at ideas from different angles and challenge the status quo.
9. Hire full-time innovators and implementers.
Hire creative, competent individuals who push boundaries, stretch contours and create new knowledge. Innovators’ job is to forecast where the industry is headed and where you need to be positioned. Implementers’ ensure innovative ideas get legs. Skilled implementers execute an innovation with passion, precision and accuracy. An innovative idea is not worth the napkin it’s written on without putting legs on it.
10. Don’t ignore facts.
As you innovate, get the facts. Refusing to research facts is tactical stupidity, and your innovation could ultimately be flawed. If an idea fails, find out why. Learn what went well and what didn’t.
11. Don’t be afraid to fail.
Not all of your ideas will work. Don’t be discouraged. Instead, prepare yourself for a few duds. Use the failures to fail forward and launch new ideas.
Worldwide, there’s no shortage of hungry and ambitious entrepreneurs. Those who bake innovation into their culture will disrupt the markets. If you think continuously about innovating, you’ll be much more likely to have a great idea, step out on courage -- and execute perfectly.